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‘Thak thak’ gang bikers spray with chemical, rob US woman near Delhi AIIMS

Officials of Delhi Police say this is a new method that is gaining popularity among ‘thak thak’ gangs, which are given the name because they accost victims on a seemingly simple pretext, usually saying their car tyre appears to have a puncture in it.

delhi Updated: Nov 08, 2018 21:32 IST
Shiv Sunny
Shiv Sunny
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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The victim, an American woman of Indian origin, said two motorcycle riders gestured for her car to pull over near AIIMS hospital, then sprayed a chemical that forced her to exit her car and left her gasping for breath on the side of the road.(HT File )

Motorcycle gangs forcing a car to stop on a flimsy pretext and then stealing belongings from the vehicle is a common modus operandi of Delhi’s notorious ‘thak thak’ gangs. But an American woman of Indian origin was robbed near the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in south Delhi by motorcyclists who allegedly sprayed a chemical that forced her to exit her car, and then stole her backpack while she was left gasping for breath on the side of the road.

According to the woman, the perpetrators sprayed a chemical on the bonnet which led to white fumes entering the car through the AC vents, leading to shortage of breath and the skin to burn.

The police, which is investigating the case, says this is a new method that is gaining popularity among ‘thak thak’ (knock knock) gangs, which are given the name because they accost victims on a seemingly simple pretext, usually saying their car tyre appears to have a puncture in it.

The woman, who is in her forties, lives in New York. Last month, she was in India to perform a religious ritual for her late father. The alleged crime happened around 1.30 pm on October 22, a day before she was to return to the US.

The woman told HT and she and her Indian host were in a Toyota Innova, travelling from a private hospital to Connaught Place, when two men riding a motorcycle waved at them under the flyover near AIIMS.

“The two riders pointed to our car’s bonnet and gestured us to pull over. We thought they were being helpful, and stopped the car on the side of the road. Moments later, the AC vent of the car began releasing dense fumes that made us struggle to breathe. I thought I would choke, and feared the car would explode. I immediately came out of the car,” said the woman, who asked not to be named.

She said she had just stepped out of her car when two men on another motorcycle came towards her and snatched a backpack in her hand. “The pillion rider was not even wearing a helmet. He turned around to look at me after the robbery. The robbers were riding away at a leisurely pace. They seemed unafraid,” the woman added.

When she checked the car’s hood, she found a “thick, black, greasy” chemical on one side of the bonnet. “We suspect the chemical was sprayed moments before the motorcyclists gestured to us. My host confirmed that there were no problems with the vehicle,” she said.

The woman told the police that her backpack contained $3,000, an iPhone, her passport, cheque books, driving licence, health insurance card, and her late father’s locket. “Since I lost almost all my documents, I would have struggled for days to get back to my country. But the US embassy in Delhi came to my rescue,” said the woman, who flew out of India on October 23.

“The embassy officials helped me register a police complaint online,” she added.

When contacted, deputy commissioner of police (south) Vijay Kumar said the woman registered a ‘lost and found report’, about which the local police is not directly informed. “We have now got in touch with the woman and are registering an FIR with the help of her Indian contact,” the DCP added. According to him, what the woman described is one of the many modus operandi of ‘thak thak’ gangs operating across India.

The woman says she put her robbed iPhone on surveillance and found that it was being used in and around Safdarjung Enclave.

Police statistics show that at least 19 snatching cases were reported everyday in Delhi till October 31 this year. A total of 5,726 such cases were registered in 190 police stations during this period.

The city’s police commissioner, Amulya Patnaik, in his last interview told Hindustan Times that police have recognised snatching as one of the capital’s biggest law-and-order concerns and they have proposed drastic changes that call for harsher sentences for the guilty.

First Published: Nov 07, 2018 08:46 IST